There are way too many companies that have set up pricing tables with “packages” for their products without a solid understanding of the psychology behind package design. One of the first e-commerce companies to do this well was Dell. Nevertheless, while often imitated, many companies that offer software or services and offer it in different packages are simply playing monkey see, monkey do.

Dan Ariely explains in his excellent book “Predictably Irrational” that, “Humans rarely choose things in absolute terms. We don’t have an internal value meter that tells us how much things are worth. Rather, we focus on the relative advantage of one thing over another, and estimate value accordingly.”

Let’s dissect that; first, by understanding the word “value.” Roy Williams explains, “The value of an item – in the mind of a consumer – is simply the difference between the anticipated price and the price on the tag. When the anticipated price is higher than the price tag, it’s a ‘good value.’ When the anticipated price is lower than the price tag, it’s a bad value.”

Our job as the marketer is to position the benefits of our products as having significantly more value for the price than our customers anticipate. The second thing to understand is the term “relative advantage.” What happens here is that your customer is comparing your offered “packages” to what they may have seen elsewhere, and also with the other “packages” you are offering.

Dell’s formula for pricing table success was to have the lowest priced item available anywhere as the entry package (package A) and then offer two other packages to compare that to. The reason this is so important is because your customer ends up comparing package A to what they may have seen elsewhere (caveat – theirs was the cheapest option). Then design package C (the premium option), and only then build package B knowing that customers would compare the relative value of A versus B and B versus C. This forces you to spend more time building up the value of package B in your customers’ eyes.

This is why it is often best to construct three packages, and many companies like to start their package A with a free offer so that it’s compared to other external offers, and then build value from there. In my last column, we discussed how the price of free is perceived in direct proportion to the value experienced. There is an incredible amount of psychology that goes into “packaging” and pricing and I won’t shortcut in this column. Rather, once you have thought intelligently about these packages, there are a few design techniques you can leverage to make your offers stand out better and design your pricing tables more effectively.

Above the Fold

Never forget my best advice for making sales – if someone asks for a price, give them a number. Anything but a number raises anxiety and doubt. Forget what sales trainers taught the world pre-transparency. If you hide the price, you lose. So, if they click on your pricing page, show them your table and pricing above the fold.

Emphasize One Option

We often want to make one of our packages stand out among the other options. There are at least three ways to do this:

  • Size. You can make one column in your table larger than the others.
  • Color. You can use color as a header or column background to make one option stand out from the others.
  • Badging. These are little graphic stickers that are made to stand out on the page. You can use a badge like “Most Popular,” “Best Value,” etc. You could use badges on e-commerce websites as well.

Here is a great example from ScribeSEO that uses all three principles.

Layout Features/Benefits Intelligently

Don’t overwhelm your visitors with too much information. You have to make it easy for them to understand your offer. Hopefully you have done a good job of establishing your products’ value before they get to your pricing page. Your pricing page is not the place to list every feature. Here is an example of killing your visitors with features:

When you overload them with features, they have a hard time zeroing in on anything that might really matter to them. If you have too many benefits to list, then at least group them the way Quicken does, which allows the visitor to open up the group to see an expanded list.

  • The point of your pricing page should be to differentiate your packages and show the value in each; don’t waste your pixels comparing similar features in each one.
  • Choose the right terms to use in your packages; avoid the use of jargon that may make your visitors scramble to understand it and try to avoid the use of negative tone or language.

Calls to Action

Calls to action should stand out. The key to this is contrast, and be obvious from the moment a visitor lands on your page. The visitor should always know the next step they should take. Carefully consider the wording of your call to action. Also, if your pricing table scrolls, consider calls to action above and below the fold.

Social Proof

Adding testimonials, third-party validators, and client logos to the page as point of action assurances to help with social proof can be quite effective. Just be sure they are moderated with tools like Mass Relevance’s Conductor, which allows you to show your curated tweets but applies rules and filters before they show up on your page, because you don’t want to see the wrong type of tweet in there:

Hopefully this gives you some ideas of how to design effective pricing tables, but if you need additional inspiration, check out some of these galleries:

Price and value – get the customer to understand the relative value of both and you’ll convert more visitors.